Flash card goals are straightforward. Review till 0. Learn 10 new cards a day. This is studying. Set your targets and meet them. Then you try the same thing with immersion. Watch one j-drama a day. Read three manga chapters a day. Watch two episodes of anime a day.
Something feels off, but you can’t figure out what.
Fun converted to obligation
Most of you study Japanese because that’s truly what you want. Obligation learning, or learning where you don’t really have a choice but need to do it for some outside reason, is drastically less effective. Passion learning is where you want to be.
What you truly want is what understanding Japanese will provide. And that’s usually anime, manga, books, TV and movies. Immersion is practicing what you already enjoy. But since your level is still in development, you can’t enjoy it yet in the natural way you would once you are fluent.
Immersion contains studying. Studying that is absolutely necessary for progress. You can’t become fluent in Japanese solely by studying from textbooks. So your fun gets converted to obligation.
Think about Netflix
You probably were thinking about it anyway. You open Netflix in delight. You browse, binge and repeat. You have to work hard to not watch too much.
Now imagine you had a daily Netflix to-do list. You must watch 3 comedies, 2 anime, 1 romance story, and 1 fantasy. You must do this every day, checking off each item.
Now imagine in addition to your daily list were shows that involved extra work and thinking. You had to watch history documentaries to improve your history knowledge and cooking shows to improve your recipe skills. You were going to be tested on them afterwards.
The second someone tells you what you must do, how much you must do it, and the ultimate reasoning behind it, fun decreases.
Solving the conflict
Obvious solution: don’t create a daily list of content you must consume. Just consume it.
The opposite of the daily requirement is the following attitude:
Everyday I’ll just watch and read as much fun Japanese as possible!– What everyone says at some pooint
This can work… for some people. But for other people this is a goal-less hell. You can’t keep track of things. You can’t check things off. How do you start without an end? That’s like saying “I’ll learn flash cards daily” and expecting results.
The only solution: figure which (or combination of) works best for you. Whatever you can do to get yourself enjoying immersion daily – you do that. Ignore what anyone else says.
The natural progression out of this
There is good news though, I promise. This is 100% temporary.
As your Japanese gets better, this becomes a non-issue. This whole situation is tough because whatever you are trying to enjoy also involves work. However, over time the work decreases, and the fun increases. And this all happens way before you are fluent.
The natural urge to watch or read something you would enjoy no longer contains traces of “but I have to work at this…” It becomes Netflix – you want Netflix. Give yourself time to get there.
How do you handle it?
Do you set content goals? Do you just try to enjoy what you can daily? Which has worked for you?